AP’s Black History class changed after DeSantis criticism, conservatives: NPR
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The official curriculum for a new advanced placement course in African American studies that was released Wednesday downplays some elements that have drawn criticism from conservatives, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who had threatened to ban the class in his state.
Under the new framework, topics such as Black Lives Matter and queer living are not part of the exam. They are only included on a list of sample project topics that states and school systems can choose from for homework.
The course is currently being tested in 60 schools across the United States, and official documents are intended to guide its expansion to hundreds more high schools over the next school year. The College Board, which oversees AP courses, said the developers consulted with professors from more than 200 colleges, including several historically black institutions.
The rejection of the course by DeSantis, a Republican, has sparked a new political debate about how schools teach about race.
In January, the state released a chart saying the course promotes the idea that modern American society oppresses black people, other minorities and women, includes a chapter on “black queer studies” which the administration finds inappropriate and uses articles from critics of capitalism. The Florida Department of Education told the College Board it would ban the course unless changes were made.
DeSantis, a possible Republican candidate for president in 2024, said he was blocking the course in Florida because he is pushing a political agenda.
“In the state of Florida, our education standards not only don’t prevent, but they require teaching black history, all the important stuff. It’s part of our core curriculum,” DeSantis said. at a press conference last week. “We want education, not indoctrination.”
In a written statement Wednesday, College Board CEO David Coleman said the course was “an unflinching encounter with the facts and evidence of African American history and culture.”
“No one is excluded from this course: black artists and inventors whose achievements have been revealed; black women and men, including gay Americans, who have played central roles in civil rights movements; and people of faith from all walks of life who have contributed to anti-slavery and civil rights causes. Everyone is seen,” he said.
Among the schools piloting the new course is Baton Rouge Magnet High School in Louisiana. So many students were interested in the course at Baton Rouge High School, Emmitt Glynn teaches it to two classes, instead of just the one he originally planned.
At the beginning of the week, his students read extracts from “Les Miserables of the Earth” by Frantz Fanon, which deals with the violence inherent in colonial societies. During a lively discussion, students connected the text to what they had learned about the conflict between colonizers and Native Americans, the war in Ukraine, and police violence in Memphis, Tennessee.
“We’ve covered the full range of coasts from Africa to where we are now in the 1930s, and we’ll continue through history,” Glynn said. He said he is proud to see the connections his students make between the past and the present.
For 17-year-old Malina Ouyang, taking the course helped fill in the gaps in what she learned. “By taking this course,” she says, “I realized everything that is not said in the other courses.”
Matthew Evans, 16, said the class educated him on a multitude of perspectives on black history. He said the political controversy was just a “distraction”.
“Anytime you want to try to silence something, you’re only going to make someone want to know more,” he said.
The College Board offers AP courses across the academic spectrum, including math, science, social studies, foreign languages, and fine arts. Classes are optional. Taught at the college level, students who score high enough on the final exam usually earn course credit at their university.
The African American Studies course is divided into four units: Origins of the African Diaspora; freedom, enslavement and resistance; the practice of freedom; and movements and debates.
In Malcolm Reed’s class at St. Amant High School in Louisiana, where he teaches the AP class, he tries to be aware of how material and discussions can affect students.
“I give them the information and I’ve seen light bulbs go out. I ask them, ‘How does this affect you? How do you feel hearing this?’ ” he said. “It’s also new to me, and I’m taking it head on. We’re not just learning history, we’re making history.”